How Home Depot Made Jasmine Mans a Better Writer
This is Rough Draft, in which our favorite writers get to the bottom of their own craft. From preferred writing drinks to whether or not you really need to carry a notebook, we find out all the ways they beat writer’s block and get it done. This week, we speak with Jasmine Mans on the occasion of her poetry collection “Black Girl, Call Home,” which was released earlier this year. The work tackles topics like Black haircare, familial grief, and the tangled relationships between mothers and daughters. Below, take a glimpse into Mans’ writing process.
JULIANA UKIOMOGBE: Describe your ideal writing atmosphere. What gets you in the mood?
JASMINE MANS: An organized space, with no distractions. White noise, ocean sounds, or a John Coltrane playlist. These options allow me to coast on a sonic journey without being distracted by literal words. While writing, I cannot hear words, other than the ones I am conjuring.
UKIOMOGBE: Do you eat or drink while you write? If so, what do you like to have?
MANS: I am a chronic, terribly insane, coffee drinker. I can manage a drip coffee or oat milk latte during every writing session, one or maybe even two. When I think about writing, I think about things that make me feel safe. The warmth of coffee reminds me of home and, in turn, makes me feel comforted. Truly, I didn’t know how important comfort was to my writing process until now.
UKIOMOGBE? Do you ever smoke while you write?
MANS: Smoking weed can offer many different reactions during the creative process. Sometimes cannabis makes you nervous, anxious, and unfocused. There are other times where cannabis relaxes that mind, allowing peace. I will also say, even as the CEO of a company called Buy Weed From Women, that the best mind is a sober mind. Art is not dependent on cannabis, but I wish for everyone a healthy “canna-art” relationship.
UKIOMOGBE: Do you keep a notebook and/or journal?
MANS: I keep way too many, that’s the problem. Now, I have a google doc on my computer entitled “next” and I’ll try to write everything in that one document, or transfer all of my loose sleeve writing to that document. A major part of being a “good” writer is routine and organization. Having one place to refer to your work allows you to track your growth.
UKIOMOGBE: Do you prefer handwriting or typing?
MANS: I prefer typing because I can literally get a thought out faster. I type faster than I write. However, notebooks do not offer any distractions, no open tabs, no pop-ups, no apps. With a notebook, it’s just you and the page. The computer includes you, the page, and the worldwide web waiting lustfully to distract you. It ain’t safe!
UKIOMOGBE: What’s your favorite quote?
MANS: “You are your best thing.” ― Toni Morrison, Beloved.
UKIOMOGBE: Whose writing do you always return to?
MANS: I will always turn to Toni Morrison and Amiri Baraka.
UKIOMOGBE: What’s your favorite book to reread?
MANS: I love to reread Dr. Suess’ Oh, The Places You’ll Go! when I’m drunk, honestly.
UKIOMOGBE: Do you read while you’re in the process of writing?
MANS: Yes, I read things to educate myself and to find clever ways of distributing my language across the page. That’s what I’m most proud of, my constant reading of things, all things random and necessary.
UKIOMOGBE: Which writers inform your current work the most?
MANS: Quinta Brunson, Ocean Vuong, Toni Morrison, Clint Smith, James Baldwin, Alice Walker, Gwendolyn Brooks, Roxane Gay and so, so many more.
UKIOMOGBE: How many drafts of one piece do you typically write?
MANS: Great question! I’ve had poems that went through 30-40 drafts. I’ve had poems that only needed two drafts before they were complete. Drafts all depend on the depth, length, and emotion of the poem.
UKIOMOGBE: What would the title of your memoir be?
MANS: Maybe She Was a Genius.
UKIOMOGBE: Who’s your favorite screenwriter?
MANS: Shonda Rhimes. She said she treats her audience like they are intelligent, I respect that. We want to treat our audiences like they are stupid, as if we, the writers, don’t exist in the same realities they live in. I feel smarter, and more clever when watching the work of Shonda Rhimes. I’d like to offer my audience the same.
UKIOMOGBE: Do you consider writing to be a spiritual practice?
MANS: Sometimes it is. I think we should make everything we love a spiritual and ritualistic practice. When something becomes ritual it is honored, it is cemented in the routine of one’s life. Things that are connected to one’s spirit should be protected, honored, and shared.
UKIOMOGBE: Which writers would you choose to have dinner with, living or dead?
MANS: Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, Amiri Baraka, Eckhart Tolle, and Tupac Shakur. I would love to talk to Tracy Chapman about “Fast Car”, I’d talk to Toni Morrison about Sula.
UKIOMOGBE: What advice do you have for people who want to be better writers?
MANS: Don’t stop. You are what you do. Continue writing and sharing, and discover new ways to fall in love with the craft. In 2017, I spent a year painting my poetry on a 6ft canvas cloth from Home Depot. I am not a painter, but I was rediscovering my love for poetry through paint and play. Play with your art, don’t make your art your servant.
UKIOMOGBE: What are some unconventional techniques you stand by?
MANS: Physical exercise prepares the mind for writing. I am a better writer when I run. I believe other art forms can improve your own. When I am searching for depth I watch painters, storytellers, musicians, and ballerinas in their techniques, I look at how their techniques can apply to my form.
UKIOMOGBE: Can great writing save the world?
MANS: That’s why god told a bunch of men to write the Bible.